The book you're holding is what you get when you ask a native New Yorker to write about the city he loves. This isn't a dry travel listing of abstract places. This is a love letter to you from a living city. I want you to love my city as much as I do, as much as eight million other folks do. I was born in and raised on the streets of New York (too) many decades ago. I know its buildings and its people intimately. Yet I still am as excited as a first-time visitor every time I go out. It is a city of infinite interest, experience, and surprise.
This should not be news to any urbanite. A city is built as a tool, playground, and refuge for its inhabitants. It is designed by them, and it exists for them. What makes New York a different — some may think alien — place are the same things that make it unequaled as a family tourist destination. It's the variety, the facilities, and the locals.
As a native New Yorker, I'm here to tell you that my fellow Gothamites are a great and warm people — most of them, most of the time. Ask a New Yorker for directions and you'll happily (if sometimes hastily) get them. Ask for a good restaurant or restroom close by, and they'll be proud to show off their knowledge and their city. Ask a New Yorker a question, and chances are you'll get a life story. In writing this book, talking to people took maybe three times as long as it would have because you just can't shut some “landsman” off. On more than one occasion, I've had to call back because I was so engrossed in schmoozing (a local leisure activity) that I forgot to ask the question I called about.
Tourists are sometimes overwhelmed by New York. No wonder. It is superlative in every way. There are between 18,000 and 20,000 restaurants in the city. There are more than 150 museums. It is the theater, art, financial, fashion, and sports capital of the world, and, well, you get the picture. No matter who you are or where your interests lie, you'll find something in the Big Apple to win your heart.
Use Chapters 6 and 7 to help with the must-sees. Then explore all the rest that New York has to offer. As an important art center, it offers breathtaking museums and fabulous architecture. No visitor should miss the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which rivals the Louvre as one of the world's greatest museums. Add the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the Museum of Modern Art, and you'll be sure to see the greatest in contemporary painting and sculpture. And don't forget the small galleries, where the cutting edge lies, either.
In the premier city for both serious and popular theater and other performing arts, you can always see the best of ballet, opera, and musical performances. But there is also off-off-Broadway and the small dance company workshops too. As a culinary capital, you can partake of the finest cuisine in the world in the most exquisite settings (Tavern on the Green and the 21 Club), but it offers some of the most offbeat and familiar food as well (Chinatown, hot dog street vendors, delis, and family pizzerias). Price icons for restaurant listings clue you in as to how much you can expect to pay:
- $15 or less: ($)
- $16–$30: ($$)
- $31 or more: ($$$)
New York is rich in living American history. You can visit Revolutionary and colonial homes, the preserved mansions of America's robber barons, a turn-of-the-century tenement, and some of the finest examples of corporate architecture. On top of that, New York is a college town with four major universities of its own and many more in the surrounding suburbs. New York is also home to every major professional sport — men's and women's.
Because there is so much to see and do (and so many new museums and attractions opening every year), many people make New York a rotating spot on a variable list of vacation places and see a different side of the city each time they visit.
For families with children, New York is an oasis and a playground. Aside from the most obvious kid-pleasing attractions like the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History, there are many other one-of-a-kind experiences. These range from the Museum of Television and Radio to Madame Tussauds wax museum to the Police and Fire Department museums. Kids who love the subway are always mesmerized by the Transit Museum, and don't forget that the Brooklyn Museum has the country's finest collection of Egyptian art (think mummies). No kid can resist a day in Central Park where there's fun to be had riding the carousel, sailing wooden boats, climbing on the Alice in Wonderland statue, and visiting the Central Park Zoo! Likewise, a trip to Times Square is a lifetime memory.
Whether it's your first visit to New York City or your 21st, read through this guide, make a list of things that intrigue you and your family, do some planning, and hit the phone or the Internet. Plan ahead and make reservations, but leave some time for serendipitous discovery.